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Author: Daniel Pearse
Monday, October 27, 2008

Given the overwhelming playability of EA’s latest basketballer NBA Live 09, the stakes were high for NBA 2K9 – the 2K brand traditionally proving the far stronger of the two franchises. Thankfully, though the newest edition to the roster doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it adds enough to an already superb sports sim that the results are laudable, if now not leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

Like EA’s offering, the living roster functionality is a to-die-for edition for hardcore basketball fans, allowing new rounds of stats to be downloaded and thereby influencing whether you’re a formidable or spent force.
The graphics mirror an actual NBA game – from the remarkably on-the-nose representation of the arena itself, to the players’ emphatic movements in defence or offence, and their expressions during a play – and it’s so easy to get swept up in the action you’ll easily kill hours at a time without, unlike your on-screen counterparts, breaking much of a sweat.

The control system does, however, take some serious mastery and doesn’t exert much energy in insisting you. Casual gamers are liable to be a little shocked at how little the instruction manual will help, but given the amount of button presses required to do your on-court thang, admittedly it would have to be a seriously hefty manual to make sense of it all. Passing to your preferred player, securing rebounds and making free throws – long a thorn in the franchise’s side – are often frustrating to achieve at all, let alone with any degree of panache.

The overwhelming amount of game modes certainly bolsters the enjoyment – the trusty dunk contest is better than ever – and taking the action online you’ve now a five-on-five contest to opt for. It all adds to a game that adds just enough to the formula each time to keep it winning the tip-off between franchises, but with the gap ever closing, it’ll be interesting to see what happens come the next face-off.